A quick visit to the local garden centre soon highlights the wide range of equipment available to the greenhouse owner – some of it almost indispensable and much of the rest designed to make the gardener’s life easier in one way or another. Although we all have our own ideas about what is essential – and therefore worth the expense – and what we can do without, gimmicks and gadgets aside, the well-appointed greenhouse needs its equipment and accessories if it is to realise its full potential.
Staging is probably one of the most commonly bought pieces of greenhouse equipment. Even for a greenhouse where plants are normally grown in beds – such as tomatoes, for example – there are times when staging can prove invaluable. Choosing a type which bolts or screws together is a wise move if the greenhouse is to be a multi-purpose one, since this enables a wide variety of pot plants to be cultivated, but can also be easily dismantled and removed when necessary. For most purposes, a single tier of staging, typically around two feet (60 cm) above the ground is the best arrangement, but for wide greenhouses, it may be more sensible to opt for two or even three tiers to maximise the growing space.
Small propagating frames can be very useful. Fitted with soil-warming cables and air-warming sides, they allow a minimum temperature around 18 degrees C (65 degrees F) to be maintained for relatively low cost – and those with in-built thermostats can control the temperature very precisely. Using a frame allows the gardener to extend the propagating season without having to heat the entire greenhouse – making the rooting of carnations, chrysanthemums, cuttings and seed germination in spring considerably easier to achieve.
A well-chosen watering-can will always be another greenhouse essential, no matter how much we may rely on automatic irrigation systems. While every gardener will already have one or more on hand, it is worth taking a bit of time to select the best one for this particular purpose. The ideal choice is a compromise between being large enough to get the job done without the need for constant refilling and light enough to allow it to be manoeuvred easily in the confines of the greenhouse. Well-balanced cans with long spouts are the most suitable kind – enabling plants at the back of beds or the rear of staging to be reached without too much difficulty.
Monitoring the Greenhouse Environment
One of the key benefits of greenhouse growing is that it can provide a stable temperature for the plants – so a good thermometer is an essential bit of equipment to let you make sure that everything is as it should be. Maximum and minimum thermometers – which leave a small needle in place to indicate the highs and lows – are the most sensible kind for this use and will very quickly give you an idea how well the ventilation or heating systems are working, long before your plants suffer. In much the same sort of way, there are meters available to tell you the pH and moisture content of the soil and humidity meters to monitor the green house environment. Depending on what is to be grown, these too may prove very useful additions to have, particularly if your chosen plants have rather specific needs to be met.
Many items of general garden equipment are also useful in the greenhouse, such as dibbers to plant seedlings and cuttings, sieves to sift soil or compost and a range of buckets, pots and trays – and unless there is a particular reason to buy new ones, can probably do double duty. However, it is a good idea to buy separate measuring jugs and sprayers just for the greenhouse, since the pesticides used for pest and disease control within the greenhouse may well be different from those used elsewhere around the garden – so better safe than sorry!
There are many things which can be useful in the greenhouse – from the quite ordinary such as labels and bits of string, to the likes of the latest in high-tech environmental monitors – and which you need really rather depends on what you want to grow. Whether you simply wish to give a few seeds a head start, or propagate the most exotic of orchids, someone is sure to be selling the perfect piece of equipment to help you do just that.